Olympic medalist wrestler Sakshi Malik on Sunday shared a letter written to the Sports Ministry, in which the wrestlers protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Singh, requested that their trials be postponed.
This was posted in reply to former wrestler and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yogeshwar Dutt who had in a video expressed disappointment at reports that Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) ad hoc committee had decided to exempt protesting wrestlers from the initial trials. The reports claimed that six wrestlers — Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Sangeeta Phogat, Satywart Kadian and Jitender Kinha — have not just been exempted from appearing in the initial trials, but have also been promised that they will compete directly against the winners of the trials. The letter shared by Sakshi, written to the Union Sports Ministry, urged the ministry to postpone the trials and take them after August 10 this year.
“We agitating wrestlers had written a letter only to postpone the trials, because we could not practice due to being involved in the movement for the last 6 months. We understand the seriousness of this matter, so we are sharing this letter with you. The enemy wants to break the unity of the wrestlers. Don’t let him succeed,” tweeted Sakshi.
Yogeshwar took to Twitter and posted a video and had questioned the criteria and parameters on which the protesting grapplers were exempted from the trials.
“I came to know from a newspaper report that the ad hoc committee of IOA has decided to give (the wrestling protesting against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) an exemption from the trials. They will take part in a final trial. I do not know what parameters or criteria were taken into consideration by the committee to let all six wrestlers take a direct final trial,” Yogeshwar said in the video.
Also questioning the wrestlers’ protest, he said he had doubts if the protest had more to do with exemption from the trials than allegations of sexual harassment against the WFI chief.
The BJP leader said he had information that the wrestlers wrote to the ad hoc committee of the IOA, seeking an exemption from trials.
“Was this protest against sexual harassment or getting an exemption from trials? I also came to know the protesters wrote to the ad hoc committee seeking an exemption from trials,” Yogeshwar added.
He reasoned that there are other grapplers, who have a stronger and more claim to exemption from trials, than those who have been away from the mat for more than a year.
“If you want to give such exemptions, give it to Ravi Dhaiya, an Olympic gold medallist, or Deepak Punia (secured 4th place in Olympics), Anshu Malik (World Wrestling Championships silver medallist), and Sonam Malik. Giving these six athletes an exemption from trials is beyond my understanding and this is clearly not the right thing to do. This wasn’t done even by the previous federation. You took the decision without going over the rules or setting any criteria. All wrestlers should raise their voices against this. I am not saying they should protest but they raise their voices through the media, write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IOA, and (Union Sports Minister) Anurag Thakur,” Yogeshwar added.
Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Pogat, the three Indian wrestlers protesting against the former chief of the Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Singh, went live on social media on Saturday and fiercely attacked the country’s former Olympic medalist Yogeshwar Dutt. In the video, Sakshi Malik said, ” You are spreading wrong things against us.”
Sakshi Malik said, “When women wrestlers gave their statements in front of the committee, then how can you say that Brij Bhushan Singh is not guilty and we did not get any statements? If you were right, you would have taken our side there and said that the girls have given statements and Brij Bhushan Singh is wrong. You are saying to us that we do not want to give a trial, then let us tell you that we have not told anyone that we do not want to give a trial. We had said that give us time and then take the trial, we had asked for time. You are spreading wrong things against us.”
Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat hit back on Saturday over Yogeshwar Dutt’s statement that the protesting wrestlers were exempted from the trial.
Taking the name of Yogeshwar Dutt, Bajrang Punia said that, “He (Yogeshwar) probably does not know how to read and write and without knowing it, he is doing the work of poisoning the society. He said that our fight is with those who do wrong with women wrestlers and not with them, but still, after the slurs you are speaking against us, it is necessary for us to speak as well.”
Talking about the year 2010 Asian Games, Bajrang Punia said that, “He (Yogeshwar Dutt) was injured in 2017 and still he kept saying that he will play, but when 10 days were left, he refused to play. What a big betrayal he had done to this country. Bajrang said that Yogeshwar Dutt was also in the team sent to the Commonwealth Games in 2014. There was another wrestler with him, whose name I will not take, both of them used to go to the federation and sit every day and used to say that without trial, do our selection. I would like to ask him what arrows did you shoot after the Olympics and why he wanted your selection without trial. Bajrang said that we three players who are sitting here are not allowed to go to any tournament without trial. The fact that you played the Commonwealth Games in 2014 without trial shows what your relationship was (with Brij Bhushan Singh).”
Vinesh Phogat on Saturday accused Dutt’s brother being involved in leaking of confidential statements of women on alleged sexual harassment by Wrestling Federation (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Singh and of betraying the wrestling fraternity to protect the president of governing body of the sport in India.
“Our khaaps and other seniors have experience, they have seen this world. They know the difference between truth and a lie. You accuse of them being wrong and standing with the wrong people?. They saw something genuine in our emotions and that is why they came to support us,” said Vinesh in the video.
“Your brother called the husband of one of the girls who was there to give her statements before the committee, informing him that she was giving a statement. But inside, you had got a confidential letter signed saying nothing would be leaked or if it happens, proper action will be taken. We mailed the committee that Yogeshwar’s leaking all statements of women, but no action was taken. When we told you the same you talked rudely to us. You turned the camera off. You should have spoken to us with the camera on so that the whole country could have seen how civilised you were to us.”
“Brij Bhushan has been found guilty in the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police. He used to touch women wrestlers the wrong way, used to take photos with them, and hug them forcefully. He was proven guilty on basis of all audio/video proof that showed him doing all this. When you were in the oversight committee, you secretly met him. He must have given you the assurance that you would get the seat of chief of WFI. Out of greed, you protected him. Are you not ashamed of being such a traitor to wrestling? You are breaking the wrestling community so that you can rise to the top and run things according to your wishes,” she added.
Notably, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections have been postponed from July 6 to July 11, as per the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
In the election, the members of the executive committee of WFI will be decided. The occupants of the post of president, one post of senior vice-president, four posts of vice president, one each position of secretary general and treasurer, two posts of joint secretary and five posts of an executive member will be decided, as per a letter from IOA.
The last date for receiving names for the electoral college will be June 25 by 5:00 PM. Two nominations from each State/Union Territory will be made. All state/UT wrestling federations will nominate two persons each of their respective associations, who are part of the executive body to form the electoral collage for the election to elect the WFI’s executive committee, added the letter.
Preparation and display of the electoral college, circulation to affiliates and publishing the same on websites of IOA/WFI will be done on June 28.
Submissions of nominations for election will be from June 29 to July 1 from 11 AM to 5 PM. The preparation and display of nominations received by returning officer will be done on July 3 by 1 PM.
The scrutiny of nomination papers will be done on July 4 by 11 AM. The submission of the notice of withdrawal of candidates will be done between July 4 to July 7, till 5 PM. On July 8, a final list of candidates will be made by 11 AM, added the letter.
Polling will be done on July 11 from 11 AM to 1:20 PM. The counting of votes will start from 1:30 PM and results will be declared on the same day.
Earlier on June 13, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections were announced to be held on July 6 amid the ongoing protest by wrestlers against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, by the newly-appointed returning officer for WFI elections Mahesh Mittal Kumar in a statement.
The process of filing nominations was also announced to start from on June 19.
“Whereas, the undersigned has been appointed as the Returning Officer by the Indian Olympic Association vide its letter No. IOA/I-28/2023/1350 dated 12th June 2023 for the purpose of conducting the election of the Executive Committee of the Wrestling Federation of India(WFI), which is an affiliate member of the Indian Olympic Association(IOA),” the statement by the office of the returning officer read.
The Indian Olympics Association (IOA) organised a three-member ad hoc committee in April as mandated by the Sports Ministry, and two members were named to oversee WFI’s day-to-day activities and pick wrestlers for international events in the interim term.
After a meeting with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, star Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia on Wednesday said the government assured that the ongoing probe by Delhi Police against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will be completed before June 15.
Earlier in June, former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar was appointed as the returning officer for the Wrestling Federation of India elections by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Joint Secretary and Acting CEO Kalyan Chaubey on Monday confirmed the appointment of Justice MM Kumar through an official letter, also authorising him (Kumar) to appoint an Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) and other staff to assist him in conducting the elections.
The elections will be critical in moulding the future of wrestling in India and deciding the federation’s leadership.